The poster souvenir from The War on Drugs‘ Sunday show at the Fillmore features a clean white feather quill and a contorted, technicolor ink blob. It’s the sort of image that suggests that someone intended to write down an idea, story, lyrics, or even a resolution, but in the end, all that came from the pen was a misshapen form—ink spilled on the paper in an incoherent mess.
But it’s a beautiful, colorful mess.
Lost in the Dream, The War on Drugs’ newest album released earlier this year, has that sort of quality to it. The tracks are cathartic and hazy, pushing away a lucid stream of consciousness, bringing you into deeper into lead guitarist/vocalist Adam Granduciel’s unfolding stormy reverie. It’s not a nightmare so much as it is a semi-conscious purgatory—a mulling over of his own issues in life without any apparent resolution or reaction other than a swirl of musical chromatics.
That was the surreality of the atmosphere at the Fillmore, anyway. They play the pastoral Midwest-leaning rock with psychedelic flare and a seemingly fully staffed orchestra, complete with a brass musician.
But despite the impressive lineup, this was Granduciel’s show. The lead vocalist and guitarist took frequent solos, flexing the strength of his virtuosic abilities, and he got so self-involved with them, it was as nothing existed outside the reality of the room.
Not that that’s a bad thing. They, and particularly Granduciel, have an ability to craft an ecosystem of madness within space, and observing it feels a bit like voyeurism. For “In Reverse”, the night’s sixth song or so, Granduciel sang the first half alone under four singular white lights, barely looking up from the microphone. It was his own introspective, and watching him felt invasive.
The show wavered in energy at times, which was probably my only real gripe. The approximately 90-minute set had a few dips in stamina and was only resolved by an upbeat “Red Eyes”.
Though personally I was hoping a bit for a Kozelek duet or really, any kind of mention of their recent spat, that didn’t happen (though you can stream an actual song Kozelek wrote, called “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock” as of last 9pm last night). Instead, the encore began with a haunting Bob Dylan cover, “Tangled Up In Blue”.
Following the cover, brass player John Natchez picked up the sax and delivered a cool solo under a blue shade. The show ended with more ambient, distorting guitar tones and rich keyboard chords. It was an offering of final moments of reveling in an abstracted state.
It was the end of Granduciel’s dream, and though it was a beautiful one, it was time to wake up.